Wednesday, March 9, 2016

What To Do While Waiting

For a writer, the worst thing in the world to do is wait. Of course, people have lives. They have things to do. But the minute a writer turns something in--an article, a blurb, a book--the clock starts ticking. Right now all I can do is wait. My book has been sent out to publishers. My agent warned me that it will take at least a month in most cases for them to read--even with phone calls, prods and personal connections.

"Start something else," she said.

Well, the last time I was waiting I wrote a YA novel. (Now I know that it should really be considered Middle Reader). I wrote it during NANOWRIMO (National Novel Writing Month). I had been mulling over the idea for a couple of years---had a world and a beginning--and a file folder full of pictures and research. But I did't know what the story was yet.

I started five days late, and I finished on time. I knew it was for my kids so I wrote it (2000 words a day from my start date) and gave my boys pages every two to three days. They would give me notes/suggestions. "Mommy, this is good, but if something doesn't happen soon it is going to start to get boring." Or, from my older son, "I like this. I think the Librarians (characters in the book) should speak using really big words." Or, "They need to have a friend and something really bad has to happen." Each night I incorporated their suggestions. Their sense of rhythm and plot was impeccable. Better than mine. And they would catch forgotten strands of the story that I had not come back to, and demand that I follow up.

Anyway, now that my adult novel is out, I am turning back to my kids book. I did a once-through edit and now I have formed my own little kids focus group. I picked a few of Benji's friends who I know are fantastic readers, highly imaginative, and, in one case, daughters of writers. They already talk like writers! And they are only 10!

So yesterday Jonathan made copies for me and I put together a folder for each kid. Benji helped me recruit his friends, talking up the book (I did not demand this, but good buzz!). I went down to Liz' hardware on La Brea and took cool pictures of ancient locks and keys for my cover. Then I wrote each kid a letter asking them to be part of my focus group. Today the books went out.

While my stomach churns when I think of my adult novel, today I feel only grateful on the kid front. One girl's mother shared that her daughter started reading in the car on the way to ice-skating lessons. When her mother asked how it was she said, "Amazing!" I felt so happy. Even if she is only 10 pages in.

Then Benji shared that in Council at school (closed, all info there is secret but he said he would break the promise this once) his other friend, when asked to share something that made him happy, said, "I can't wait to read Hilary's book."

I have to hold onto the good days. This one was good.

The kids come over next Wednesday for brownies and milk and discussion. I can't wait. Benji is already moving the discussion forward, asking questions like: "What are you going to call your chapters? Are you going to have just numbers? Or a description of what happens--flat and straight--or funny titles like Rick Riordan?"

Good question!

On the adult one, I am just trying to tell people I sent it out, and give the elevator pitch, then give more if they ask. At least I am not being totally hermit-like and secretive. That is my natural instinct.

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